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of the more maddening aspects of interacting with the public about our
veganism is the strange but very common phenomenon of being asked to
accept two diametrically opposed ideas and beliefs as accurate or true.
Contradictions obviously happen a lot in life – we all know people who
loathe children but have nothing but tenderness for dogs, for example –
and those seeming inconsistencies are part of what can make life an
interesting and rich experience. What I am referring to here is
something different, though. In the grasping-at-straws that regularly
occurs when people attempt to make peace with their conflicted feelings
about eating animals, they are trying to reconcile liking the way
something tastes and wanting to continue the practice of eating it with
not liking what it says about them to be complicit in the violence that
consuming those animals necessitates. It is an understandably
uncomfortable friction for many, even for those who claim otherwise.
Maybe especially so for them. This is a big part of why vegans
experience so much public push back, often when we are not even
engaging in debate. We become the physical manifestation the
inner-conflict that naturally arises out of the unresolved internal
discord people feel about eating animals. In short, we are the
messengers, even when we are not wearing our messenger hat. As such, we
are exposed to some bizarre mental gymnastic routines that we are
expected to accept, ones that assert two deeply conflicting messages,
often times within moments of one another. Let’s explore some, shall we?
1. Vegans eat only salads and vegans eat only processed foods.
This set of prevailing contradictory attitudes, one insisting that
vegans are neurotic kill-joys who are calorie- and/or weight-obsessed
and the other maintaining that we subside on deep-fried soy pig skin
analogs, could not be more oppositional yet we hear these all the time.
Some vegans emphasize whole plant foods more than others but
the vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle of these extremes.
If you see someone posting a photo of salads or a photo of donuts, it
does not mean that is all that person eats. Jeez.
2. If we didn’t eat them, the animals would go extinct and if we didn’t eat them, the animals would take over the world.
Wait: what? I am so confused. Somehow, in one fell swoop, meat-eaters
are able to save farmed animals from extinction by chowing down on them
and also prevent said animals “from taking over the world,” by ordering
Big Macs and chicken wings, which means that they are doing their part
to ensure population balance. What a strange paradox! Singlehandedly,
they fight extinction by paying others to endlessly provide a supply
that replenishes diminished (*cough*dead*cough) provisions and they
safeguard the planet against insurgent chickens. Thank you, eco-warrior
If we can only deem a species’ existence justifiable when we
find a use for them – and that use is something as cruel and punishing
as being raised to be eaten – we need to give some serious scrutiny to
our morals. If the only alternative to extinction is breeding to ensure
a consumable product after a hellish existence, these animals should
not be brought into the world at all. Also, I’m just guessing here but
it seems to me that there would be a gradual population decrease with
reduced breeding and consumption rather than an opening of the factory
farm doors and releasing bloodthirsty, predator cows upon our innocent
3. Vegans are a bunch of wet blankets who take everything too seriously and vegans don’t care about important issues.
Somehow, we’re simultaneously enemies of fun with our annoying need to
draw attention to the grave reality of eating animals and we’re
frivolous, carefree nincompoops who don’t care about anything that
really matters. That is quite the feat to be able to pull off! I’m kind
of proud of us. We manage to be both Debbie Downers and Shallow Susies
at once. Go us!
You don’t like hearing about the consequences of animal ag?
Well, we don’t like knowing about it but that doesn’t stop it from
being reality. Sowwy. I have a solution for you if you think we’re too
doom-and-gloom about everything: Stop giving us reasons to be scared
and sad about the state of the world, how’s that? Stop feeding the
machine that is destroying so many innocent lives and our environment.
As for the second claim, the people who make it, in other words, the
ones currently eating animals, they are the arbiters of what really
matters. Okay. So, yeah, more nonsense. Side note: These people don’t
tend to do anything for the good of the world but they are great at
monitoring and scoring everyone else.)
4. Vegans are stinky hippies who live in dumpsters and vegans are raging control freaks who want to dictate your life.
5. Vegans are extreme liberals and vegans are Nazis.
Well, that’s pretty impressive. We’re like Stretch Armstrong, I guess.
I will say that at the monthly Tree-Hugging Fascists for Total Global
Domination potlucks I attend, you should see the fights break out over
who was responsible for adding too much garlic to the hummus. (It’s
always the liberals.) We usually end up hugging and then slapping it
out, then hugging, then slapping. You get it. It’s weird but it works
Vegans are of all political persuasions but most of us are on
the lefty side so I can kind of see how people jump to the first
conclusion, but somehow, we also still manage to be Nazi fascists who
are trying to ruin everything good in the world like animal torture and
climate change. ‘Kay. Last year, someone yelled at me at a rodeo
protest - while walking away because he was badass like that - that
vegans are “like the Westboro Baptist Church” for protesting. One group
is speaking up against violence and the other spews hateful,
fire-and-brimstone vitriol. Yeah, six of one, half a dozen of the
6. I eat meat because I make my own decisions and eating meat was ingrained in me.
Right, sure, you’re this non-conforming, bacon-fetishizing free-thinker
who behaves like 97% of the population in thinking that animals are our
personal choice to consume but you also happen to be totally powerless
to change your habits because of how you were raised. That makes total
Which is it? I don’t see how these two common attitudes –
that omnivores are boldly swimming against the current of the nanny
state dictated by the all-powerful tree-hugging neo-Nazi vegan special
interest lobby in exercising their “personal choice” to eat animals and
are also being powerless, free agency-deficient products of their
upbringing – can be reconciled. Try again, bro.
7. Vegans are cultists and veganism is fine for other people but some of us like to fit in.
Once again, we’re chastised for being conformists – consider how very
dominant the tree-hugging neo-Nazi vegan lobbying influence is in our
culture where we’re so surrounded by the idea that animals are ours to
use as we wish to the point that we don’t notice it – and being too
individualistic by rejecting accepted cultural conventions because,
yeah, that makes sense. Somehow, we are capable of both losing our
ability to think for ourselves and thinking for ourselves too much. I
Vegans do tend to go against the grain due to having their
practices dictated by their conscience rather than social conventions
and conveniences but, that said, it’s easier all the time to live as a
vegan without too much effort or inconvenience. Whether people want to
do their own thing or avoid attention is up to the individual but
vegans have all different views about this. It might be tidy to put
vegans in a uniform personality box but it’s not accurate.
8. Vegan parents brainwash their kids and vegan kids will be socially rejected and isolated.
Once more, are we opposed to conformity or for it? This seems to be a
recurring contradictory message of meat defenders: We’re brainless
conformists or we’re so absolutely fringe we live on the outskirts of
I grew up as an omnivore. Was I ever given a choice of
whether I wanted to eat meat or not? No. Just the thought of dairy milk
made me want to hurl but was I given the option of not drinking it? No.
Did anyone ever explain to me honestly what I was eating? No. Was I
ever lied to when I asked what if it came from an animal? Yes. That was
not just in the home. This was everywhere and it happened – and is
still happening with little restriction – to everyone. At school, we
are bombarded with animal industry propaganda from the classrooms to
the cafeteria; same thing at the doctor’s office, coming from doctors
who are also steeped in the same disinformation; watching TV, listening
to the radio, walking in the grocery store or driving down the street,
we are inundated with product promotion to the point of it becoming
white noise that worms right into our very brain matter. Contrast how
my husband and I were raised with how we are raising our son: He knows
what he eats – and doesn’t eat – without deception and euphemism. He
knows the reality of animal agribusiness is far from Old McDonald’s
Farm. He is being raised to ask questions and use critical thinking
about all matters, even his veganism. He is being raised to think for
himself rather than accept the status quo and to learn how corporations
try to manipulate him with images and text. He’s brainwashed? I wonder
what you call the kids who don’t even realize that they are eating
9. Vegans believe and push propaganda and But you need to eat meat for
complete proteins; or, but a cow’s udders would explode if we didn’t
drink their milk; or, but I visited a farm once and it was not like
This one really burns my grits. (I don’t know where I got that
expression, I’m not from the South or anything but whatever, I’m going
with it.) Okay, let me try to parse this: The often hidden reality of
eating animals that vegans are sharing with the world – a truth that is
confirmed by many investigations and organizations – is pretty much the
exact opposite of what the vested interests want consumers to know and
understand yet we are the ones believing and slinging propaganda?
Hello, Mr. Orwell. How are you? This contrasts nicely with the
propaganda we regularly are exposed to from people who are so steeped
in disinformation, they don’t even realize it.
Who are the real followers and deceivers in this equation?
The two-to-three percent of people who are bringing the concealed,
unpopular information to the surface or the vast majority who are still
in the industry’s clutches? I wonder. Actually, no I don’t.
10. Vegans are a bunch of mushy sentimentalists and I eat meat because
my papa was a butcher and this is my way of respecting his memory.
The irony of this one never fails to rankle me. On the one hand, we’re
supposed to believe that vegans are a bunch of wildly idealistic
bunny-huggers and on the other hand, wah, you have to uphold your
family tradition of chowing on animals? Because that’s rational. Who is
the sentimentalist here?
Who are the ones reading stories to their kids
about happy animals on idyllic farms? Who are the ones who “have to”
eat animals because their ancestors did? Who are the ones who make
their grandmother’s brisket recipe when they’re feeling nostalgic? Who
are the ones who love some animals and eat other ones? Answer: Not the
vegans. Sentimentalize that.
What diametrically oppositional arguments against veganism make your head explode?
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